Last fall, BoJack Horseman began the slow march to the end of its run when it launched the first half of its sixth and final season. I wrote a review of those episodes, in which I said their main aim was to set up a series of narrative pins in just the right way so they could be knocked down perfectly when the second half of the season dropped in January. As review theses go, it’s not the strongest stance you could possibly take. But it was true, and I stand by it.
Especially now that January’s here, and the pins are falling.
It should come as a surprise to no one that some sort of reckoning for BoJack is on its way. The first half of the season made that abundantly clear. The show has also made it clear, from a take-no-prisoners attitude it’s willing to turn even on itself (as it demonstrated superbly in its fifth season) that no punches would be pulled. But at the same time, its impressive capacity for empathy made it unlikely that any punches would be undeserved. Nor would any moralizing snap judgments be made.
The first half assured us that whatever was to come for BoJack, be it redemption or retribution, it wouldn’t come easily. It sure wouldn’t wrap up neatly, and the tension between BoJack’s search for self-improvement and the world’s inexorable examination of his character would lead to a messy, difficult conclusion.
Besides, there are far too many skeletons in far too many closets of BoJack’s enormous house for an easy tale of redemption. And BoJack, our hero though he is, is too weighed down to simply find peace in a new chapter of his life and leave it at that. His personality won’t allow it.
Something has to happen in these final episodes.
I can’t get into any specifics, of course, about how these eight episodes go. Netflix would have my head, and anyway, it’s best to watch not knowing how it’ll all shake out. Most things are better this way, but especially this.
So instead I’ll just say this: BoJack Horseman ends perfectly.
Whatever camp you’re in on the question of BoJack’s worthiness of redemption, the show offers no easy answers, and that’s the way it should be.
Rather, it takes your hand and guides you through a series of events laying out the facts and the emotions whether you want them or not, imploring you not to look away. (Although I did have to pause a couple of times during one excruciatingly uncomfortable conversation).
This string of eight episodes is a beautiful roller coaster. Redemption is sought, but not necessarily effectively or gracefully. The past is dredged up, in ways you might or might not imagine. And being okay is a process, rather than a state of being.
That statement holds true for BoJack’s friends as well. The show doesn’t deliver a sense of closure, per se, because what self-respecting series as adept at the human condition as BoJack would insist that something as basic as closure is necessary for an ending? What it does do, however, is see each character off in a way that’s fitting for them while remaining true to the fact that even though stories end, things don’t stop happening. And it’s hugely satisfying.
Of course the show is still in top form in all the ways it’s always been.
I bemoaned (very slightly) last fall that the first half of the season was missing that usual showstopper episode we’ve grown accustomed to expecting every year. An episode that’s unusual, that takes us out of the natural pace of the story and gives us something entirely new, fresh, and compelling. I’m happy to report that there’s just such a one in this batch. It’s near the end, and you’ll know it for what it is almost as soon as it starts, I’m sure. It’s a beautiful, poignant, and frankly disturbing episode that might just leave you gasping for breath.
I know it did for me.
There’s also a fantastic commitment, as always, to the show’s oft-forgotten identity as a straight-up comedy. Even amid the torrential angst and questions of forgiveness, there are some of the funniest goddamn jokes you’re going to hear this year. There are many to choose from, but my personal favorite is a Mr. Peanutbutter anecdote about a trip to a therapist that ends with the inimitable line “But Doctor, I am Sad Dog!”
The final eight episodes of BoJack Horseman are an exquisite farewell to an exquisite show. Offering no easy answers in an uneasy situation, they instead paint a perfect picture of crisis, of coping and overreaching, and of just plain getting by.
If there’s any show that can deal with the story of a Hollywood actor forced to confront his dubious past with empathy and humanity, but also profundity and frankness, it’s this one. And we should all be so grateful that it’s willing to do it for us.
I’m going to miss BoJack Horseman terribly. But I’m so glad it happened. And I can’t find a fault with its ending.